Fancy Coffee Friday: Top Five Favorites!

©The Amusing Muse

Via @The_AmusingMuse

It seems that all bloggers eventually do a post about their favorite things and with Black Friday upon us (as well as my loathing for holiday-season retail), I thought, “Hey, Sarah, you should do a favorite things post.” So, here we are.

Now, my favorite things might be vastly different from favorites of a lot of other people, and that is A-Okay! Mostly, because they are my favorite things. Before I get ahead of myself, however, I need to write at Disclaimer:

I am not endorsed by, or affiliated with, any of these manufacturers/businesses (though if they want to pay me for talking about how great they are I won’t object).

Sarah’s Top Five Favorites (in no particular order):

  1. Simone Chickenbone’s Chicken Poop Lip Junk. One of my good friends thought they would get me a tube of this a few years ago as a joke. I thought it was hilarious and after reading the few ingredients that it has, put some on. This is seriously good lip balm. I buy it in 10-packs and stash tubes all over the place. I also have the outdoor chicken poop which is great for on the water, however, Mr. Muse tells me that I look like I’m hypothermic when I use it, my lips blueish from the zinc. Either way – it is a fantastic product!
  2. Bog’s Footwear. Prior to Mr. Muse and I heading to England last year, I wanted a multi-purpose pair of something to go on my feet  that would look good dressed up or down and that I could wear walking around all the places we might go. Also, they had to be easy-to-care-for and waterproof. I shopped online for the better part of a year, reading reviews. I went into stores and tried on pairs here, there, and everywhere. The day I finally was ready to purchase, I headed to REI and had six different brands and styles strewn about me. I tried-and-retried three pairs for most of an hour, walking about, getting irritated-yet-patient looks from the clerk, before settling on the Kristina Chukka boot. It wasn’t black, my preferred color, and they didn’t have any in stock that color, so I settled for the taupe. You know what? I have ZERO regrets about any of it. These are seriously, hands-down, THE MOST COMFORTABLE BOOT I OWN. Every time I put them on I think my foot sighs in happiness. We left for England shortly after I bought the boots, and I’d only taken them on one short hike and a few walk-about-towns, so I wouldn’t consider them to be broken in, but with all of the walking (including one day where we literally hiked 15 miles over hill and over dale), not a single blister. They were wonderful for the trans-Atlantic flights, too. PS – I’m looking at purchasing another pair of boots from the company.
  3. Duluth Trading Company’s Free Swinging Flannel Shirts. I have three words for you: hidden underarm gussets. After retiring the Fleet Farm flannel shirt I’d been wearing for over twenty years last fall, I asked for a new flannel for Christmas. I got one of these fancy duds in Classic Red Plaid (it’s being clearanced!). The flannel is thick, but not oppressive. The seams are sturdy, and hell – it even has a chamois for wiping off specs that get dusty! Plus, it’s a long shirt and we ladies who have long torsos know what it’s like when we find a shirt that is actually long enough!
  4. Kickapoo Coffee Roasters. Coffee roasters in Wisconsin? Darn tootin’! I fell into deep lust with their Guatemala Rio Azul – and wouldn’t you know… they are out of it. I’ll have to find something else of theirs to fall in lust with, and the stickers on the bags with the tasting notes are accurate and helpful. Plus, the company just stands for good things like fair trade, environmental-consciousness. I like that.
  5. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I have always loved gardening. Even in those times where weeds have taken over because of my own neglect and I’m cursing them all to hell, I still love gardening. Some years ago I came across one of Baker Creek’s seed catalogs and I loved the write-ups of each of the seeds, including their history, how they found them again, etc. Plant history! Their customer service has also been good. Before I even knew there would be an issue with some carrot seeds I purchased last year, I received a postcard in the mail with a refund and a note saying the seeds wouldn’t be true to cultivar. Sure enough, I planted them and they weren’t at all what I had ordered. I put that refund to use buying garlic and the goats enjoyed the carrots (which turned out to be mostly just tops). Even if you don’t garden, the seed catalogs are essentially gardening porn and if you add up all the time I have spent looking at the catalogs, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I’ve spent well over a week pouring over the pages of the 2016 catalog. I can’t wait for the 2017 catalog!!

Now, some honorable mentions, no less wonderful than those named above, but just didn’t make the top 5:

  • Weird Fish Clothing. I purchased the Chicoa Full Zip Macaroni Hooded Sweatshirt in ecru in Castleton, Staffordshire, on my trip last year after seeing it at a shop one day. After thinking about it for three more days, I decided that I needed the sweatshirt – because it’s a “dressy” hoodie, and I love my hoodies. The sweatshirt is warm, wind-and-rain resistant (it IS cotton, so it won’t act like wool), and was nice and cosy on a trans-Atlantic flight.
  • InkJoy pens from Paper Mate. Don’t even TRY to steal these from me! I have them in all the colors. I buy too many pens for a normal person (please note: I know others with this same affliction. We are the proud, the few, and we have all the pens!). However, please know that if I give you one of these pens – I think you’re a good person. Also note that Mr. Muse knows to never steal these from me – he has to ask for one. Obsessive? Maybe.
  • Lodge Cast Iron. Yes, cast iron is heavy as fuck, but nothing compares to a well-seasoned cast iron pan when cooking. Nothing! Sorry Analon that we got for a gift our first Christmas together – I have seen the light! Sometimes new does not mean better; as the Analon goes out, the cast iron moves in.
  • Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups in milk chocolate or Theo’s Peanut Butter Cups in dark chocolate. It’s peanut butter and chocolate… together… how can people without a peanut allergy NOT love this combo?!

I hope this list helps you with your Christmas (or birthday, anniversary, etc.) shopping needs. Seriously, who wouldn’t want a little chicken poop in their stocking this Christmas?

What are some of your favorite things?

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Figuring Things Out

I’ve always been a bit of a fly by the seat of my pants person, and my next adventure is following along in the same manner. Numerous friends have asked me what I’ll be doing next when I’ve finished up at my present job and many of them have responded shocked, or at least incredulous, that my response is, “I don’t know.”

So THAT'S why they ask you when you're five! via

So THAT’S why they ask you when you’re five!

But, that’s how I’ve always been. I’ve always just followed my interests where they’ve led me and I’ve had a lot of different jobs, some similar to others, but inevitably, I leave the jobs. Some were because I moved away due to marriage and Mr Muse’s job being the main income, but the others were left because ultimately – I got bored. In my efforts to be completely honest with myself over why I’m leaving my current job, yes, the annoying coworker is definitely a reason, but the bigger issue is that I’m bored. I have perfected the system of what I do to the point where I cannot tweak it any more for better results. I can change up what I do to proven, albeit slower, methods, but ultimately, this project is done. I need something new.

Well... maybe more like 97% sure I don't know. via

Well… maybe more like 97% sure I don’t know.

I literally typed into Google this week, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t be happy doing one thing for a job.” Why? Because I have been bombarded with astonished statements and questions asking me, for lack of better words, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” One of the first results was to the website and a Ted Talk by the creator of the site, Emilie Wapnik. Watching the video was another Ah Ha! Moment for me, because she explained her story and I thought, “Yeah! I feel the same!”

Then I laughed, because I’ve called myself a Renaissance Woman for years! So, Renaissance Woman, polymath, multipotentialite… whatever label that’s picked, they all point to the same thing: my interests, experiences, are numerous and varied.

Which brings me to a conversation on Twitter about jobs and careers I became involved in earlier this week and I recalled an episode of The Simpsons (if you’ve not figured this out yet, I’m a huge fan of the show) where Homer lists all of the jobs he’s done:

And I laughed, because – it’s me. I’ve done a lot of things, held a lot of jobs, because they sounded interesting. And when I’ve learned all I needed or wanted, I moved on.

I’ve tried to think about a good answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As a child, I didn’t know, and I still don’t know. There are just far too many interesting things to do in life. Why did, or do, I need to limit myself to just one thing?

But, all of that is not to say I don’t know anything at all about what I’m doing next. I know this much of what I’ll be doing:

  • Writing more
  • Learning more Spanish
  • Working somewhere

I think that’s a good start for 2017.

Have you always known what you “wanted to be when you grew up”?

How would you feel about reading some flash fiction? (Written by me.)

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Fancy Coffee Friday: First? Understand.

I found myself Wednesday morning in the same boat as half of the USA who voted in the 2016 presidential election: sad and shocked. It was easy to read all the things that at first blush made sense. Candy for the brain in the form of statements being made declaring everyone who voted for Trump to be racist, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, backwards, illiterate… the list of adjectives were nearly endless. I saw posts from others saying “Why aren’t all these people who threatened to move to Canada going to Mexico? Oh… WE know.”

I needed to step away from the internet for a while, at least in as much as I could. So, I did.

I worked on some things at the office. Mindless paper wrangling that allows my mind ample time to ponder this new situation. And, clear as day, a thought popped into my head, “Seek first to understand…”

Knowing I’d heard the quote before, I searched for that snippet, and immediately results filled the page with the full quote from Stephen Covey, the one and the same who wrote the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.

"Seek first to understand, and then to be understood" Dr Stephen Covey

“Seek first to understand, and then to be understood” Dr Stephen Covey

It was then that I had a small, “Ah ha” moment. It did no good to wallow in sadness and shock. What was done was done. It would be easy to lash out blindly to verbally wound those who “made this happen”, but that would be irrational. And, I don’t like irrational behavior.

So, I’d like to understand why people feel that Trump was the better choice. Yes, I find his actions and words repugnant across the board, but I have always preferred to understand motivation of one’s actions and words than accept them with a flippant, “That’s just how they are.”

So, I’ll ask questions when appropriate and read what I can in my attempt to make sense of what appears nonsensical.

And while I do that, I’ll still condemn the words and actions of those who continue to perpetuate fear in the form of racism, sexism, misogyny, and xenophobia. After all, if I am first seeking to understand, I want it to be understood that kind of ugliness has no place in this world.

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Words to live by... via

Words to live by…

My mom dug into a giant, orange Fleet Farm bag as she said, “Your niece thought you should have some of your sister’s clothes… There are all kinds of things in here…” She pulled out jeans, tops, a red “Christmas” dress she had knitted by request from my sister. I caught the items in my eyes, one-by-one, laughing mentally at the items I wouldn’t wear, one item I say “That might work for a photoshoot”, and that I’d need to try on the Christmas dress.

When I got the bag of items home, they sat on the ottoman in the bedroom for a few days before I told myself that I really needed to go through the bag and try things on and move them off of the ottoman. I pulled out items, sorted them into piles… shirts, jeans, Christmas dress. One pair of jeans was torn, slashed really, all the way up the fronts of the legs and I set it aside for the sewing room. A few other pairs of jeans fit, snugly, but wearing them would stretch them out.

The tops were all too short, or ones I’d never wear, but the top I thought might work for a photoshoot was kept. The Christmas dress, that I clearly remember my sister asking Mom to make, fit despite being a little stretched from the hanger. It’d been washed, improperly, and had pilled, but it was nothing a sweater shaver couldn’t handle. It’s not a light garment, with a mock turtleneck, fitted waist and hangs past the knees. I can vividly remember how excited my sister was that Mom had agreed to make the dress. I agreed, then, that the dress really was beautiful and in the red color she had selected, it would surely look good on her. I never did get to see her wear it. Now it was mine.

And, as much as I feel the weight of the dress on me, there was another item in the bag that gave me pause. Their familiarity made me laugh. A pair of grey, Carhartt work jeans.

Years ago I had purchased the jeans for myself. I was heavier then and, apparently, quite optimistic on the outlook of me losing weight at that time. They’d been a bit snug from the start, and when I put them on,  I ended up walking, stiff-legged, like Randy from A Christmas Story in his snowsuit.

Giving up, I passed these work pants on to my sister, who was far thinner than I was at the time, to be used. I never expected to see them again, yet, there they were.

I tried them on, expecting the same, snug, stiff-legged fit. But, I’d lost weight since then. While the pants, though made “for women”, were by no means fitted for women, they slipped on easily. There was room to move within the confines of the fabric and I momentarily relished how good it felt to know all the work I’d put into losing weight wasn’t lost on me.

I also thought, almost immediately, of the movie “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants“. How funny was it that over ten years later, this pair of pants I had given to my sister had made it’s way back into my closet?

Absolutely, the Christmas dress is beautiful and has meaning because of the memories attached to it and because Mom made it, but the work jeans are more symbolic.

Here’s why:

Because our Mom is an independent lady, so are we. Well, were. I still am, so is Mom. And these work jeans, after being around for more than ten years, are utilitarian at best. They are not pants you put on to look good – you wear them to get shit done. There are belt loops, a hammer loop, extra pockets for little tools. The material is thicker than regular denim, durable. They are not an item which you don to go out on the town. They are emblematic of independence.

These pants are now worn at the backs of the cuffs, but otherwise, they have every appearance of not having been used at all. And perhaps that is why I’m so struck with humor about the return of these jeans to my hands. We are all older, a bit more worn over the last ten years. But these pants that didn’t really fit me before, now do. I’ve lost my sister, but I still have the memories. I’m worn in places I wasn’t before, but yet, I appear nearly new in condition.

That weekend that I was handed the giant, orange Fleet Farm bag of clothes from my sister, I told Mom that moments occur where I think of my sister, and then remind myself that she’s no longer alive, and it feels weird. I asked if it “felt weird” when my grandma died when my Mom was 17. I’ve never felt weird about anyone’s death before, because people die all the time. It’s just a fact of life. But, this is my sister. There is something different when it’s immediate.

I wish I could say that there was something mystical, magical, even profound for how I feel, but, there is just humor. What was once on my ass, and then on hers, is back on mine. I’ve anointed them with dirt and grass stains since I discovered they fit, and they’ll become my regular, every day work pants.

And maybe that’s where the sisterhood lies… No matter what, death is there. We can carry on and get shit done, or we can’t. And we can either find humor in that fact, or suffer for it. I choose to see humor.

Thank you, Sis, the pants fit great.

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Selecting My Ducks

Today’s post title is meant figuratively, not literally, as I won’t get actual ducks on the farmstead again until we have a pond for them in which to putter about. But, before I get too far off track, the ducks about which I write, are Life’s “ducks”.

I’ve never been terribly good at following arbitrary rules. Oh sure, there are societal rules of behavior, manners, etc., that I feel one should always adhere to within the absolute best of their abilities. I hold very definite opinions regarding personal dress in public (unless you’re under the age of 8 or at a specific event for which it’s appropriate – wearing pajamas in public is something for which I WILL judge someone poorly). I am a stickler for the rules of the roadway. All of these things are included in the all-encompassing “polite society” bubble by which I feel we all should comport ourselves. All those nice ducks, lined up in a row.

Look at all the ducks! via

Look at all the ducks!

But, Life, as she often does, gets a little hitch in her get-up, and some of those expectations are just thrown right out the window. A lot of “should’s” become “not going to happens”, and we find ourselves looking at our pond full of ducks which are scattered about, paddling around willy-nilly. Everything is in disarray.

Such is where I have found myself the second half of 2016. A whole lot of ducks. A whole lot of disorder. A bunch of “should’s” that I’m questioning.

It was time for me to select my ducks. Which ducks did I want to keep? Wild or domestic, it didn’t matter. What mattered now is that I make some decisions on the ducks I want to keep; or sell off, give away, or put in the freezer, those ducks that I didn’t want.

One of those ducks that I really want is to be a professional writer and author. No foolin’. I have written stories since I was a kiddo. I’ve been complimented, praised, etc., but, this year, I’ve watched the time I’ve had available to write slip further and further away. There are nights I’ve cried because everything else in life needed to be done, and what I wanted to do was “back-burnered” again. For someone who wants to be a write for a living – that’s a cause of stress.

Speaking of stress, add in working with a sociopath for two years, and I have found myself in a situation I’ve been in once before of drinking far more adult beverages than I should (there is that word again), and not working out as much as I want. I am an admitted “stress eater and drinker”. And as much as I try to mitigate the stress with time outside and trying to keep a good sense of humor about dealing with crazy all day – two years is a long time.

That duck has got to go.

That duck has got to go. via

That duck has got to go.

The more I focused on that particular duck, the more helpless I felt. So, I’m going to shoot the duck.

It makes me a bit sad, in a way, to shoot the duck. The duck makes me good money. The duck is pretty flexible on when I show up and go home or have to step away from the pond for a while. I’m damn good at doing my part of keeping the duck in the pond. But the damn duck is stressing me out. So, the duck really, really has to go. Catching it isn’t an option, so – it’s time to break out the bird shot and take it down.

With that duck gone, writing will be able to take more priority. Stress levels should go down. Sure, I might feel the loss of some of that good money the duck made, but, other ducks will come along, paddle around my pond and it’ll all work out. Also, less adult beveraging and more exercising!

I will find myself beginning new ventures and adventures with zeal starting in 2017. A few ducks I’m going to be checking out in the weeks to come, thanks to wonderful people like Jess Witkins, should look great in my pond.

Life shouldn’t be about adhering to the “should’s” because they’re what everyone else says are the right things to do.

I’ve always been a bit of an odd duck, never caring what most people thought about me, what I did, or what I said. So, after 40 years on the planet, I decided it was time to take a chance, pick my favorite duck, and get it in my pond and care for it.

Life is too short to care for the wrong ducks.

Fucking awesome. via Sebastien Millon

Fucking awesome.
via Sebastien Millon

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Fancy Coffee Friday: Embrace Your Weird

from the Official Felicia Day Store at A majority of the proceeds to go Anti-Bullying campaigns.

from the Official Felicia Day Store at
A majority of the proceeds to go Anti-Bullying campaigns.

The other weekend my mom and eldest niece came to visit for a Girls Weekend. We enjoyed the sites and sounds of the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival and also took in the Wisconsin Quilt Expo. We ladies know how to party!

But, the weekend with the ladies came to an end over a breakfast of Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with toasted walnuts in warm maple syrup (homemade). And bacon (of course). Breakfast around the table was filled with chatter and my mom brought up a previous conversation she’d had with my niece about what the love lives of seventh graders was like. Mom laughed over the response she got of, “Nonexistent”. The discussion then led to boys, dating, love, and how too many young kids get wrapped up in long-term relationships with someone in Middle School. Our collective advice was, “Don’t do that!”

Mom stated, “Nothing has happened to you yet in Middle School; go be interesting first.”

Of course, we all know that even as 12 year old’s we had experienced some interesting things. However, it really wasn’t until we got older that the more noteworthy experiences began to happen.



My niece responded that she was “weird”. Her eyes grew wide as in unison, her Grandma, Uncle (Mr. Muse), and I, all exclaimed, “GOOD! Keep being weird!”

My niece gave us a puzzled, bemused look, and we all chimed in with examples of how we all felt “weird” and it was normal to feel that way. We continued on about how “weird” isn’t the bad trait it’s often made out to be. After all, even the City of Austin, TX, like to make sure people “keep it weird” complete with a festival! No, “weird” is nothing to be ashamed of, or hide, because there is nothing wrong with it.

I embraced my weird early. I played trombone for many years (I still have it, too) and in Middle and High Schools I would wear hats, typically Fedoras, for Pep Band gigs. There were giggles from some people at the time, but now people remember my wearing the hats. I remain in touch with my band teacher and the hats are always one of the things he comments on. Was it weird to wear the hats all the time? Not to me – it was an expression of who I was. It was fun.

Years went by and my “weird” showed with me wearing cowboy boots before they came back into fashion in the early 90’s; the same with flannel shirts. I’d rather stay home playing cards with my Mom than go out to a drinking party. All things that at the time were considered “weird”.

I also competed in Horticulture and because of that, I started to travel to National competitions around the USA, meeting lots of people – some of whom I’ve stayed in touch. Back then, people commented that it was weird that I competed over plants, but I loved the competition. I was good at it. Plus, getting to show off my knowledge, as well as getting to see different places in the country, was enjoyable to me.



So, because I embraced my “weird” early, I can say with confidence that it led me to more interesting and extraordinary things than had I remained “normal”. And, I love my “weird”. I love how fascinated I am with nature, especially fungi and bones. I love that I prefer to stay home than to go out to a bar. I love having a small group of close friends and that I takes me ages to trust new people enough that I consider them in-or-near the “inner circle of trust”.

There are a lot of things I love about myself that are not mainstream, far too many to list. But, it was having the confidence and respect for myself (thank you Mom for being a great example) and who I was, am, and will become, that allows what was once called “weird” to be thought of by others as “interesting”.

So, to my niece who called herself “weird”: embrace it. Let your freak flag fly. Know and understand that your “weird” is what makes you interesting and being an interesting person brings all kinds of new experiences, and people, your way. Your “weird” may not make you everyone’s cup of tea, and who would want that anyway? Your “weird” will attract the right people at the right times. And you know what? All those new experiences and people you meet because of your brand of “weird” will just make you even more interesting!




Did you grow up thinking you were “weird”?

What “weird” things about yourself are your favorite(s)?

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Fancy Coffee Friday: And now a message from our sponsor…

Sarah’s been busy and feels bad about not writing a blog post.

Check back next week. That’s about all I can type… because I’m a cat.

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